Coming Out [OZY]
At 6:30 am, Nov. 9, 1989, Christine Weigand’s alarm rang in Köpenick, a peripheral neighborhood of East Berlin. She woke up with a cold on the dark and rainy morning, but there was no time to take it easy. Coming Out, the first film about the secrets of “deviant” homosexuals in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), had its premiere that night. Why it is important: Story untold to international audience, one that questions common narratives (November 2019)
“In the end, fascists never really disappeared,” says Pietro Di Placidi, as he cleans up Sgobbone restaurant after the lunchtime customers have left. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: It underlined how fascism remained in Italy (August 2019). The New Yorker wrote a VERY similar article a year later.
The board games market registered 20% growth in 2020, riding the desire for “digital detox” and a break from tumultuous times. Despite the positive trend, new problems have emerged during the pandemic. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: Shows a societal change, impacting on people’s spending behaviours and global supply chains (February 2021)
Story idea, contacts and support with numbers (February 2021). WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: I pitched this article to New York Times, and Vice. They then wrote it internally, but without numbers and a solid understanding of the story itself. It took me three months to find data
Italy is a country whose press is partially free, like South Africa, the Philippines, Congo, Thailand and Nepal, ranking 72nd in the world, after Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago but also Israel, Greece and Chile (May 2010). WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: If there is one thing I will always fight for is the freedom of the press. Many anomalies in Italian and other European countries are often related to a weak press. The article introduced also Freedom House as a source in Italian media
“The continuous flow of information from the news and newspapers – that totally lacked context and perspective – led to a panic reaction for a big part of the community,” comments Taïs, mother of one, “I myself spent way too much time on the internet following all the updates on the situation. That only fed my fear.” WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: Journalists have to be critical of journalists’ mistakes
Avuncular Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti has quietly overseen a revolution in Italian tennis and now he wants his team to seize the moment and start winning big individual tournaments. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: Back then no one would ever think Italians could win Grand Slams (as it then happened with Schiavone and Pennetta). Credit also to Mark Meadows, who translated the article into English (April 2010)
Here the story in English.
There are not many rooms available in Moldova’s capital, the country with the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita. On the second weekend after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the demographics of Chișinău changed on the streets and the reception facilities. A hostel without teenagers and 20-somethings is somehow a strange experience.
At Hostel City Center, the day typically starts around 7 in the morning. The first ones to have breakfast are older women. The light is low; the silence is grave. All you can hear is the sound of plastic packages opening and closing. Ukrainian women don’t eat anyway. Their dark circles are increasing day by day.
After about an hour, around 8 o’clock, the women in their thirties and forties arrive. They turn on the light and talk, consulting their cell phones, while eating carrots and bread, but also cheese and potatoes. They are in their pajamas or lingerie. Some are wearing masks, most often for their eyes.
After half an hour, the children wake up, and the party starts. Some sit next to their parents, watching TV series on their cell phones. Others start playing with balls. While they chase each other around the corridors in the evening, making a hell of a noise, now they mostly sit at a table and play fairly quietly. Or they go to Cat’s Cafe, where they pet the ten cats. Incidental pet therapy.
“One in eight children in Moldova is a refugee,” says Dorin Frăsîneanu, foreign policy adviser to the prime minister of the Republic of Moldova.
Around 9, groups of boys and girls led by an adult, normally a man in his 30s, leave the hostel and continue their journey. The war two hours away has already started.
Not everyone feels safe in Moldova. The country is not a NATO nor an EU member. Women talk about going to Romania. To remain as close as possible to their husbands.
THE UKRAINIAN MEN
Then there are also some men. Those of Azeri and Turkish ethnicity are in a group. The ethnic Ukrainian ones are almost always alone. They often walk with their heads down.
I share the room with a sailor from Odessa looking for a job in Germany or Turkey. He explains that he bribed people to escape. His entire family is still in his city, famous for Ėjzenštejn’s 1935 film “Battleship Potëmkin.” He tells how it is a melting pot of ethnicities -Chinese, Indians, South Koreans, Azeris, Roma, and Sinti. “It’s a historic city. It’s a beauty.”
He feels guilty for not supporting the resistance. Every time we talk about the resistance, his eyes fill with tears.
In his bunk bed, under the sailor, sleeps an older man with an Israeli passport. He is waiting to leave the country. I have only seen him out of his bunk twice in three days. Once for the toilet, once for breakfast: eggs on toast. When I ask him if he wants anything from the supermarket, he replies that he already has everything. I see him on his cell phone, with the SIM card given to him for free by the Moldovan stores. He doesn’t do anything else.
The flow of migrants to the Moldovan capital will likely increase in the coming days unless parties agree on peace.
CHIȘINÃU AND ODESSA
Odessa and Chișinău historically have deep ties. Many Moldavians have their holidays on the Ukrainian Black Sea, sometimes crossing the border to go shopping. Ukrainians buy Moldovan wine. They also appreciate local food.
The two cities are less than two hours apart, at least in normal times. Now the queues at the border last several hours.
While at the beginning of the conflict, people were arriving in fancy cars, now less affluent people are crossing the border. Some volunteers explain that people without shoes, in flip flops, are also coming.
Many Moldavians live in the port city. Some have brought their families to safety and supported the resistance, evacuating refugees and preparing for war. I met a Moldovan born in Chișinău who is ready to fight for Odessa. “It’s my home. It’s beautiful,” he says.
The local population is aware that the battle of Odessa is also a battle for Moldova, a neutral country. The local army numbers between 5,000 and 7,500 forces. Locals explain that in case of a Russian attack, the government would surrender in a matter of hours. More than 5000 Russian troops are in the separatist region of Transnistria.
“I tell my friends that if the Russians invade, there will be no violence. I can fall asleep Moldovan and wake up Russian,” says Marti, a boy with dual Moldovan and Estonian nationality. “I can escape. Many will not be able to.”
Over the weekend, 20-year-olds with bleached or blue hair, tattoos, and piercings arrived in the Moldovan capital. Their final destination: Berlin. They joke and laugh, but they too check their cell phones. Despite their attempts to keep the morale up, their eyes are pretty telling.
Moldovan Labor Minister Marcel Spatari wrote on Facebook that three-quarters of the refugees are taken voluntarily by families and some organizations, while a quarter is now in emergency facilities.
LIFE CONTINUES IN THE HOSTEL
Meanwhile, life continues in the hostel as if nothing happened. There are no windows. This structure seems isolated; time seems frozen. For the children, the party continues. One runs around wearing an adult’s slippers instead of gloves.
The receptionist has a nervous snap. She scolds in Russian two wiry children brandishing one of the cats.
The attempt to maintain normality is evident but not natural. It is a stretch. A mother and son eat lunch with quinoa and salad. The mother asks the son to eat quietly; the son nods but continues as before. The mother doesn’t even seem to notice.
The COVID-19 outbreak has been wearing down Italians, who have lived under a strict lockdown since March 9. How bad the psychological consequences are depends on how long the crisis lasts. But there is help. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: First article on international press about mental health and lockdown (March 2020)
Berlin might never look the same again (November 2019). WHY IT IS IMPORTANT? Seriously?
The Biennale, in Berlin until September 9, is less experimentation and perhaps less aesthetic refinement. Instead, it is a choral and adult event with clear themes: the creation and change of societies, the integration of minorities and migration. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: I was one of the few journalists underlining the social value of the Biennale (June 2018)
In Milan, Chinese finger food is becoming such a trend that its Chinatown is reportedly the country’s fastest growing real estate area. This zesty neighborhood is an example of the collaboration between China and Italy. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: It shed light on Chinese community in Milan (July 2019), first article of this type on international press
Poles apart [Siegessäule]
Over the last twelve months, around 100 cities in Germany’s neighbor to the East have declared themselves to be “LGBT-free”. In response, Ber- liners held a demo on March 7 outside the Polish Institute Berlin, where SIEGESSÄULE contributor Sergio Matalucci spoke to some of the participants. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: One of the first articles about the topic in Germany (April 2020)
Porn problems [Siegessäule]
“We’re planning to start a petition to European legislators regarding the Digital Services Act, to demand equal treatment for porn platforms as any other platforms (e.g., Facebook) and to demand protection from discrimination of these hege- monic platforms,” says Pappel, adding that “Berlin is the capital for sexual innovation and deviation”… and should remain so. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: Quoting Bruce La Bruce: “I’m tired of people looking down their noses at those who appear in or make pornography, even though they watch pornography themselves.” The story also helped me researching OnlyFans story for DW (February 2021)
Nicola Samorì and neo-Manierism (ITALIAN) [ArtTribune]
The exhibition of Nicola Samorì (Forlì, 1977) at the Berlin branch of the EIGEN + ART gallery has created a rare consensus among artists, gallery owners and collectors. WHY IT IS IMPORTANT: The article speaks about Samorì “skinning” his paintings. The term is now normally used by art commentators (October 2019)